6 successful women on what it actually takes to get ahead

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Advice from the ultra-successful tends to lean heavily on themes like hard work and passion.

Fair enough. But it's tough to develop a career to-do list based on those philosophies alone. What steps are truly necessary to achieving your professional goals?

Uniquely well-positioned to answer this question are women who have not only succeeded, but broken barriers and changed industries in the process.

Here, Sheryl Sandberg, Shonda Rhimes and other successful women share their strategies for climbing the career ladder:

1. Shonda Rhimes: Start doing what you want to do today

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The genius behind some of the top-rated programming of the past decade says that waiting for your dream job will only lead to failure.

"You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing, Rhimes said at Dartmouth's 2014 commencement speech. "You don't have a job? Get one. Any job."

"Don't sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work," she says. "Do something until you can do something else.

2. Indra Nooyi: Have a hip-pocket skill

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo.
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The Pepsico CEO says you should have a "hip-pocket skill," a talent you're known for and can develop even further. Nooyi says her own a-plus ability, explaining complex issues in simple terms, helped her stand out at PepsiCo.

People should look at you and say, 'You know on this particular issue, the only person who can answer it or contribute to it is Dan,'" Nooyi told LinkedIn Executive Editor Daniel Roth.

3. Kerry Washington: Don't shy away from difficulty

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The actress says that sometimes the best life decisions arise from ditching the status quo.

"You can follow someone else's script, try to make choices that will make other people happy, avoid discomfort, do what it expected and copy the status quo," Washington said at the 2013 George Washington University commencement ceremony.

"Or you can look at all you accomplished today and use it as fuel to venture forth and write your own story. "

4. Barbara Corcoran: Stop procrastinating

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The real estate mogul and "Shark Tank" judge says that consistently putting off important work is one of the easiest ways to ruin your career.

"Procrastination is the enemy of success," she writes in a Facebook post. "Guilt deflates energy and sometimes even leads to depression. So get going."

5. Tyra Banks: Learn when to listen to criticism and when to ignore it

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For the supermodel, television producer and entrepreneur, criticism isn't always a bad thing.

"Sometimes you ignore criticism, and sometimes pay attention to it," Banks told CNBC.

It's all about figuring out the source of the critique, she says.

"Is it constructive criticism that might actually help you grow even though it might hurt your ego?" she said. "Or is it someone who is just really making things up to make you feel bad about yourself?"

6. Sheryl Sandberg: Exercise confidence everyday

Sheryl Sandberg
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The Facebook COO and author of "Lean In" says that professionals need to remind themselves of their potential.

"Confidence and leadership are muscles," Sandberg said at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in October. "You learn to use them or lose them."

Check out the advice a former Google career coach has for figuring out your career goals

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